Party-list legislators to SC: Freeze implementation of tax-reform law

A PETITION was filed on Thursday by three lawmakers before the Supreme Court (SC) seeking to stop the implementation of the controversial Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act (TRAIN), or Republic Act (RA) 10963, for being unconstitutional.

In a 34-page petition filed through the National Union of People’s Lawyers, petitioners Reps. Antonio Tinio of ACT Teachers,  Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna and Ariel Casilao of Anakpawis argued that the TRAIN should be strike down for having been ratified by the by the House of Representatives and enacted by the President in violation of the House Rules and the 1987 Constitution.

The petitioners also pleaded for the issuance of a temporary restraining order to immediately enjoin TRAIN’s implementation.

Named respondents were President Duterte, Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez, Deputy Speaker Raneo E. Abu, Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo C. Fariñas Sr., and Deputy Majority Leader Arthur R. Defensor Jr.

The petitioners charged that the respondents committed grave abuse of discretion when they ratified the final bicameral conference committee report on the night of December 13, 2017, despite lack of quorum necessary to vote for its passage.

The petitioners noted that Section 16 (2), Article 6 of the 1987 Constitution and Section 75 of Rule XI of the House Rules mandate the House to comply with the quorum requirement of majority of the House membership before they can do any legislative business.

The petitioners, however, claimed that around 280 out of the total 295 members of the House were absent during the ratification stage.

“There having been no quorum during the last three minutes of its December 13, 2017, session, the House of Representatives cannot legitimately and validly conduct any business, much less validly ratify the TRAIN [bicameral] report. Respondent House leaders therefore committed grave abuse of discretion when they disregarded the Constitution and the implementing House Rules with regard to the basic and prejudicial requisite of quorum,” the petition read.

Aside from lack of quorum, the petitioners added the second equally important requirement, which is the majority vote, was also not met.

They said the requirements of quorum and approval of bills are constitutional mandates.

Likewise, the petitioners insisted that there was also grave abuse of discretion on the part of the President when he enacted the TRAIN bill, which, the petitioners said, was not validly passed by Congress.

“The lack of a valid ratification, especially of a revenue measure by the House of Representatives, which is its sole originator, could by no means result to a valid ‘bill passed by Congress.’ Such a document could have no force and effect of a bill that could be presented to and signed by the President,” the petition read.

“There having been no valid ratification of the TRAIN [bicam] report, there was consequently no valid presentment to the President of a bill for his enactment. No matter how many times he signs the [bicam] report, he could not, in the eyes of the Constitution, enact such an invalidly ratified documents into law. Respondent President therefore committed grave abuse of discretion when he signed RA 10963,” the petitioners argued.

The petitioners also disputed the government’s claim that the tax-reform law, which slashes personal income-tax rates while raising additional revenues for infrastructure and social services, would be beneficial to the public.

They said the new excise taxes on petroleum products and sugar-sweetened beverages, and its broader value added tax will hit poor and low-income earners.

“These sectors of our society will have zero and minimal benefits from the lowering of income taxes, because they are already exempt to begin with [in the case of minimum- wage earners and those in informal work of earning low or erratic incomes] or whatever additional take-home pay they will have will not be enough for the higher cost of living.  However, they will be the ones who will bear the heaviest burden,” the petition stated.

“They will not be able to afford the higher prices that these new taxes will cause, or will be able to only minimally offset these higher prices with what little additional finances they will get from the lowered PIT [personal income tax],” it added.

The petitioners admitted that its petition is anchored on the procedural infirmities of TRAIN although they are mulling over the filing of another petition on the merits of the law.

“While we file this petition today questioning the procedural infirmities of the TRAIN, we will continue to seriously study the filing of another petition against the regressive and burdensome new tax impositions of the TRAIN,” the petitioners said.




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